One of the big hub-bubs of the last week or so was around the fact that American right-wing commentator, Ann Coulter, had one of her speeches in Canada shut down by protesters. The one that was shut down was at the University of Ottawa while others at locations including my alma mater, the University of Western Ontario and my former employer, the University of Calgary (where I spent exactly one week as a page before being hired by the Writers Guild of Alberta!) went on as planned.
After the speech in Ottawa was shut down due to “safety concerns”, I was a bit saddened to see the crowing on Facebook and other social media sites by people who should know better (ie. librarians) about how proud this made them.
See, I have two big insights into this whole “controversy” that I'd like to share – one comes because I worked in publishing and one comes because I was a huge fan of professional wrestling as a kid.
The first observation from the publishing angle is this – the worst thing you can do is draw attention to something you don't agree with as it only gets it more attention/more sales/more money/more notoriety. People on the left and right both seem to miss this anything they try to censor something/someone – whether it's someone like Philip Pullman (great title, eh?) from the right or someone like, well, like Ann Coulter from the left. Often the best thing to do with a book or a person you don't agree with is to ignore it/them (especially one that is so blatantly a media whore like Coulter).
Which leads to my second point. Ann Coulter is the modern equivalent of the Iron Sheik (and I'm not hte only one who noticed the similarity.) Now, for those unfamiliar with the 1980's wrestling scene, the Iron Sheik was one of the leading bad guys who had a gimmick of being an evil Iranian doing battle with the super hero American champ, Hulk Hogan. He got “heat” (or crowd response) by saying and acting in the most inflammatory fashion possible – using the American flag as a prop, belittling his enemies and generally, just carrying on like an ass. (Sound familiar?)
So yeah, if Ann Coulter happened to come to the University of Regina, I wouldn't have been there protesting – I'd have been there with a box of popcorn and a big foam finger (guess which one?) enjoying the show for what it is – a staged exhibition intended to maximize the heat for a performer who is very skilled at what they do.
Oh, and this is a bit of a tangent which has nothing to do with Ann Coulter but I recently learned that Iron Sheik has had a late life career resurgence due to appearances on Howard Stern and YouTube where he plays (?) an amped up, crack-head version of his former character – rambling drunkenly while threatening to humble people by anally raping them! Here's a clip of the Sheik in action which is somewhat NSFW (but compared to some others on YouTube, relatively tame):
And here's a photo of Ann Coulter's face that I photoshopped onto the Iron Sheik's body. (Sorry it's not my best work in this vein but I had to try it.)